Saturday, January 1, 2011

El Día de Mi Partida

My flight path

In few short hours, I’m leaving on a jet plane and I don’t know when I’ll be back again.

Okay, well that’s not completely true.

My Colombian visa expires on December 17, 2011, so I will probably be back again around then.

At any rate, it’s going to be a crazy 48 hours.

My flight departs from SFO at 9:00 p.m. and lands in Miami, Florida at 5:15 a.m. At the Miami airport I will meet up with the rest of the WorldTeach volunteers who are flying in from all over the country. Later that day, we will depart together for Bogotá, Colombia’s capital.

The Retreat Center
We will spend the first three weeks of January at a retreat center just outside Bogotá, where we will receive intense training in English Learner teaching methods, take lessons to improve our own Spanish speaking abilities and getting overall acquainted with the country.

After the three weeks of orientation, the group will disperse to various assignments across Colombia, but I will stay in Bogotá, where I have been assigned to teach grades four through seven at one of the public schools. I still don’t know what my living situation is going to be or even the name of the school I will be teaching at, but I should find out soon.

Inside the Retreat Center
Many people have asked me how I feel about leaving.

Well, I’ve gone through a few different phases.

With my mind initially consumed by the idea of having the chance to make a difference, naïve idealism caused me to overlook the potential hardships of living abroad.

Once this adrenaline rush wore off, I questioned whether I was making the right choice in quitting my job in a crappy economy, especially since most people seemed to think otherwise. I remember waking up one night in a cold sweat, sitting up in bed and thinking, What the heck am I doing?

Retreat Center Sleeping Quarters
Complimenting my second-guessing was a lingering guilt for causing my friends and family pain in the form of worrying about my well-being, which made for a delicious soufflé of negative emotions.

But, after receiving my teaching assignment and learning more about the people I am set to help, I developed a single, simple sentiment—resolve.

Resolve to acknowledge and overcome my trepidations, to move beyond the comfort zone of my friends and family and get on that plane tonight to take the first steps down an unfamiliar path in pursuit of something greater than myself.

A good friend recently sent me a quote by Indian theosophist and writer, Annie Besant, which I find particularly inspiring, given the journey I am about to embark upon:

“Never forget that life can only be nobly inspired and rightly lived if you take it bravely and gallantly, as a splendid adventure in which you are setting out into an unknown country, to meet many a joy, to find many a comrade, to win and lose many a battle.”

I’ve spent the better part of a year preparing for Colombia reading books about the country, learning salsa and talking to people who live there.

I'm ready to face the great unknown with absolute confidence.

Colombia, here I come.

Once I shake this unholy holiday hangover, that is.

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